The Environmental Protection Authority has recommended conditional environmental approval for the Busselton Margaret River Airport Expansion proposal, with restrictions on noise levels and night-time flying.
The EPA recommended placing a limit of five night-time flights per week between 11pm and 6am and a process to improve impacts on noise affected residents.
EPA chair Dr Tom Hatton said the airport’s proposed expansion by the City of Busselton could result in larger planes like a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 utilising the airport, and the noise impacts on the surrounding areas would have to be carefully managed.
“The proposal included significant changes at the airport, with larger aircraft types using the airport as well as changes in operating hours, this would allow flights from new destinations such as Sydney and Melbourne,” he said.
“During the assessment process the EPA’s main consideration was the potential impact of noise emissions on the local surrounding areas, particularly on nearby properties at nighttime.
“The city must continue to manage noise and the EPA’s report sets out noise management parameters and limits the airport’s hours of operation.”
The proposed changes could potentially result in an additional 10 weekly aircraft movements in 2018–19 and 32 weekly movements in 2038–39 of larger jet aircrafts.
The EPA also recommended a condition to require a review of the effectiveness of the noise management plan after three years of operation.
Dr Hatton said the EPA supported the city’s investigations into alternative flight paths, which may further minimise noise impacts to residences.
City of Busselton chief executive officer Mike Archer said the city originally sought 24 hour flight operations at the airport.
However, after consultation with the community, Mr Archers said council revisited this and sought permission to operate between 6am and 12am with a cap on night flights of five per week between 12am and 6am.
“These operating hours remain the City’s preferred option,” he said.
“Having listened to affected residents, the city also agreed to explore a change in flight paths to reduce the effects of noise.
“The Civil Aviation Safety Authority recently advised that they are willing to support the proposed changes to flight paths and this is now being progressed.”
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said the EPA recommendations were mostly consistent with the noise management plan submitted by the city.
Ms Mettam said Environment Minster was not bound by the recommendations and might give consideration to other factors such as the economic impact of the proposal.
“Given all airlines have all expressed that at least initially back-of-clock services would be required to attract new services to an untested route,” she said.
“The proposed hours of operation would be some of the most restricted in the state and have taken a lengthy three-year process to develop and we would expect the minister to take have a broad approach to the approval process.
“As it stands, the EPA’s recommendations would require the city to go through this costly and time-consuming process all over again to make future changes to the hours of operation.”
The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open a public appeal period, which closes on Wednesday, June 20 2018 at appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au
The Minister for Environment will make the final decision.
The EPA Report 1616 is available at epa.wa.gov.au